After sitting neglected for over a quarter-century, the Slick '73 Challenger is finally getting renewed. Once we brought the E-Body home, the first thing we needed to do was rid its interior of that horrible smell that mice leave behind. As an aside, while we worked on the interior's revival, a stroker engine assembly and the many other engine parts needed to build a strong running, pump-gas small-block were ordered.
The E-Body we're working on was refinished back in 1983, as per the era's style and standards. The early '80s was a time before the availability of reproduction interior upholstery, molded loop-cut carpet, door panels, package trays, and the host of other interior parts that are available these days. A sure laugh and sign of the times was seeing the shag carpet for a package tray and the pile-cut carpet. My best friend Slick purchased this E-Body in 1988, and shortly afterward the 340 spun a rod bearing and wiped out a few cam lobes. Back in 1999 we planned to rebuild the engine, but plans changed to put it off until he retired in 2013. Slick, however, died in 2008, so the Challenger was purchased from his widow. We feel Slick will be working with us in spirit.
Follow along on our mission to rid the interior of its horrible smell, while at the same time making the interior far more habitable. We removed the seats, console, carpets, door, kick and side back panels, back seat/trunk divider, and package tray, to get at the solid floor and trunk pan. For the clean out, we wore masks and gloves before removing dead mice, nests, and waste to protect us from that horrible stench and bacteria. Luckily, the little creatures did not chew and damage the wiring, which is a common problem. All the lights, gauges, and even the clock still worked!
For rust, sound, and heat protection (while also keeping the interior cooler during the summer), The Eastwood Company provided us with the necessary products, namely Rust Encapsulator, Gator Guard, Thermo-Coustic Barrier, and Vinyl Interior Dye. We made a call to YearOne for molded loop-cut carpet, package tray, trunk divider, and a shifter boot. Down the road we plan to replace the "too '80s" heat-pleated seat covers with a reproduction set from Legendary Auto Interiors. For now, it has a clean look and smells nice enough to spend some "quiet time" behind the wheel—once we rebuild the drivetrain.
1. This was our first peek—and smell of the interior. Evident were mice nests, mold on the dash, and a horrific mice waste smell that was bad enough to make your eyes water. The period cut-into-dash AM/FM cassette, underdash gauges and chronometer scream out late '70s/early '80s.We knew right there and then, we had our work cut out for us!
2. After the interior was removed, the entire floor and trunk pan was wiped clean with the Eastwood Pre Painting Prep (PN 10041Z) for proper surface preparation. Here we brush on the Eastwood Rust Encapsulator (PN 16065ZP, quart) rather than spray it on and risk overspray getting where you don't want it. The Rust Encapsulator will protect metal from further rust and can be topcoated with most any paint.
3-4. Next up was Gator Guard (PN 10129Z), essentially a pickup truck bedliner. This tough coating was also brushed rather than sprayed on. Gator Guard creates a thicker barrier than paint, which will help seal, strengthen and add sound deadening to the floor/trunk pan, doors, quarters, and wheelhouses. Be sure to wear the appropriate protective clothing, mask, and gloves. Seen here is my brother, Jim. He handled coating everything with the Rust Encapsulator and Gator Guard.
5. We couldn't wait to get rid of the white shag carpeting covering the package tray (aka the speaker shelf). The shag carpet was also badly infected with the rodent-waste smell. The old 6x9 speakers still functioned well enough so we would reuse them. Tapping on the package tray and its braces told us there was too much of that tinny, vibration noise. We knew covering those parts with the Thermo-Coustic Barrier (PN 12117) would reduce the noisy vibrations and resonance that come from that area.
6. To combat road and exhaust noise, as well as heat, we used the Thermo-Coustic Barrier on the front side of the original rear seat/trunk divider and installed the reproduction piece (YearOne PN LP5011) behind it for aesthetics when looking into the trunk. To further reduce noise, the Thermo-Coustic was applied to the wheelhouses, back side panels and floor/trunk pan. The new package tray (YearOne PN PDX70BLK) fit perfect and it looks much better than that white shag carpeting. We also covered the entire floor pan and transmission tunnel to deaden road, driveline, and exhaust noise—a big problem in any E-Body. The sound and insulating material will also reduce the heat coming from the headers and exhaust to help the factory A/C keep the Challenger's interior cooler during those hot summer days and nights.
7. We used the quieting material on the outer skin, as well as the inner door panel. Now the door slams with a solid thunk, and there will be less road and wind noise. The Eastwood hand roller (PN 52050) helped us attach the material, smooth and form it to the metal. Note: We needed three boxes of the Thermo-Coustic Barrier for all the areas we covered.
8. Back in 1983, the door and rear side panels were sprayed with a bright white dye/paint. Now, the panels are filthy, and the old paint was scratched and peeling. After removing the trim, cleaning and prepping with the Eastwood Vinyl Prep (PN 52055Z) we applied the White Interior Dye (PN 11438Z). We used Adhesion Promoter (PN 52366Z) for better adhesion and durability. The white dye will last for years if prepped and applied properly. Four moderate coats were applied to each panel. We needed to use four cans of the interior dye for proper coverage of the four interior panels.
9. We placed the carpet in the sun while we worked on the interior. We removed the wrinkles in the carpet (by hand) that come from being packed in a box. When pressed for time, judicious use of a heat gun can remove wrinkles and help the carpet conform to the floorpan. Be very careful if you take this route. The original console, swap-meet generic seat belts and temporary seat bolts hold the carpet in place to ease seat installation. We got the E-Body four-speed loop-pile molded carpet from YearOne (PN 7074EBLK40) and a new shifter boot (PN RF36SET).
10. The seats were smelly and stained with the mouse mess. Many hours were spent cleaning the seats with Meguiar's Interior Cleaner Spray and Wipes. The results were satisfying to the eyes but not the nose yet, so we proceeded to wash the seats (underneath too) with Meguiar's Gold Class Car Wash and let them air dry in the sun to kill the bacteria and smell. We also sprayed on Meguiar's Odor Eliminator as another precautionary measure.
11. All that work paid off. The interior looks like new—even with those generic seat covers. We can't wait to rebuild the drivetrain and get it running. We're sure the ride will be cooler and quieter than any E-Body we've owned in the past.